Wayne Rooney has provided perspiration and inspiration on behalf of Manchester United for many seasons. After a sluggish opening to the season with both United and England, he is returning to form as United face Tottenham at White Hart Lane. Tottenham are in need of someone to step up to the plate and lift a team that has flagged in recent games and greatly disappointed last weekend against United’s near neighbours, City.
Who can lift Tottenham at this crucial period of the season with matches coming thick and fast?After last weekend, the last team Spurs wanted to meet is a United team on the rise. While Spurs’ season started positively with results although not in performance, it was United who started slowly under new manager, David Moyes. Up to the beginning of November it had been Tottenham who had been higher in the table but with Spurs having taken only one point in November, United have moved ahead and are now 7th, two places and one point better off than Spurs.
As United have improved so has Wayne Rooney. He avoided an early red card at Cardiff last Sunday and seven minutes later put United ahead. It was from his corner that United regained the lead just before half-time. On Wednesday evening in the Champions League Rooney inspired United to their biggest away win in Europe for 50 years – a 5 – 0 success over Bayer Leverkusen who had been undefeated at home since last March, a total of 18 games.
Tottenham against United is bad enough but with Rooney in the mood, running at them with the ball, will be a worrying sight for the Spurs defenders who had an uncomfortable afternoon at the Etihad Stadium when the City midfielders and strikers poured forward in numbers. Confidence will be high in the United camp and they will again expect Rooney to provide the inspiration.
Who can step up for Tottenham to provide that inspirational moment which will lift the crowd and the team. Every top club has that player and at White Hart Lane there is a vacancy in that department. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, like Rooney for United, have been providing those inspirational moments at Liverpool and Chelsea for many seasons. Their best days may be past them but they are still capable of those ‘magic’ moments.After many seasons of waiting for that type of player at White Hart Lane, Gareth Bale filled the role over the past few seasons, turning draws into wins and defeats into draws with his spectacular goals and positive forward runs. In his absence who can fill the void.
There are few candidates for the post at present. Christian Eriksen might be a player who could grow into that role but is taking time to adjust to the Premier League and with his current injury we’ll have to wait and see how he develops. Erik Lamela, similarly, has the ability to bamboozle defenders but needs time to become accustomed to the rigours of English football. When playing for Brazil, Paulinho seems to be an inspirational player but in a Tottenham shirt it hasn’t been so evident. Aaron Lennon has the ability to excite and trouble the very best of defenders but his final ball and finishing prevent him from being that player. Andros Townsend was able to inspire his country in his World Cup qualifying games but has found it more difficult when he swops the white shirt of England for the ‘lilywhite’ of Spurs.
Roberto Soldado could certainly fill the bill if he rediscovered his goalscoring touch that was so evident in Spain but we’ll have to wait until his team-mates understand how to provide him with the ball in goalscoring positions inside the penalty area.
For present Spurs fans have had to satisfy themselves with the honest committed endeavours of players like Michael Dawson and Sandro. They revel in goalkeeping bravery of Hugo Lloris but a top-4 team needs the inspiration to come from a midfield player or a striker.
I challenge the players who turn out tomorrow, to be the ‘one’ to make a difference and inspire the team in a way that we’ll remember for a long time to come. Make it one of those days when supporters will be forever saying, “I was there when….”